We all know of someone for which the tide of time has not been kind. It may have been a neighbour, a friend, that first girlfriend you fell hopelessly head-over-heels in love with. The heart fluttered on eye-contact. When she wasn’t in your vicinity you wished she was and you couldn’t wait to see her again. She was beautiful. She was young, vivacious, gregarious, with eyes that could startle and transfix. She could have had any man she wanted – those boys clambered over themselves vying for her affection.
I too, know such a girl. Her name is United. In her younger days she had a multitude of suitors. A silky Scottish wizard by the name of Law; a British national treasure from the north-east called Bobby. She was also seduced by the suave exuberance of a smooth Frenchman named Eric. He was sophisticated, charming, romantic, and loyal – everything you’d wish for in a boyfriend. He had charisma and a certain je ne sais quoi? Maybe it was because he was different to all the other guys. He was so popular; everybody loved him and so did she. Alas, their parting came somewhat out of the blue when nobody, least of all United expected it. She was heartbroken.
But perhaps the greatest love story of them all was her relationship with the Belfast Boy George Best. He was mercurial, brash and oozed charisma and confidence. He was the ultimate ladies’ man and yet had this unique ability to be the ultimate man’s man in almost equal measure. He was a genius who thrilled everybody. He was wild, adventurous, had a reputation as a bad boy. United and everyone who knew him or knew of him, were infatuated by him. Was it his daring good looks? Was it the glint in his eye? Was it that steak of mischief that coursed through his veins? Was it his accent? I don’t know. With an addictive personality he lived life to its fullest. Who will ever forget that night they shared at Wembley in 1968? That night the couple were at their happiest. They made such a handsome couple. But it wouldn’t last. For all his machismo he was uncontrollable; hugely promiscuous; untameable. George, where did it all go wrong?
But time is a cruel mistress and boys are shallow. She is no longer as young or as beautiful as you used to be. Time has chiselled away at her best features. With furrowed brow and wrinkled skin she has grown tired and her youthful spark has dimmed ever so slightly. But behind those eyes lie a million stories, multiple triumphs and fewer defeats.
She holds onto her title as the Queen of Manchester but recently her crown has slipped ever so slightly. No longer are the most eligible men lining in search of her affection. Long ago all she had to do was flutter her eyes in a man’s direction and he was snared; caught up in a web of her creation; one that promised romance, success, fame and a treasure throve of riches. But no longer.
She’d had a tumultuous couple of years. You see she’s always had a father-figure in her life. Some have looked out for her welfare better than others. (Sir) Alex looked out for her more than most. But sadly for United, he left her side over 2 years ago. He had been her constant; her confidant for over 26 years so their relationship was built on the strongest of foundations. He ruled with an iron rod; was dictatorial and domineering but despite this, he always looked out for her best interests. They shared some wonderful times and were hugely successful. United courted many men during those 26 years. Many left on good terms; more didn’t after acrimonious endings with her father figure. It is true to say that Alex was a bully. More importantly for United though, during this time she still retained her magnetic beauty and continued to attract the most handsome and virile of male suitors.
Recently though, United has a new father-figure in her life – Louis – a Dutchman. It turns out that he is a bit of a bully too but with one important difference to Alex. He is less successful. Bullies are difficult to tolerate at the best of times but successful bullies are a lot more tolerable than unsuccessful ones. This is not to say that Louis has not been successful. It’s just that he and United haven’t had much success together.
All of this means that United has had little success in her pursuit of the best talent. Word has emerged about Louis’ bullying tactics. A number of former boyfriends have left United disgruntled airing this grievances in public for all to hear. That’s not to say that United cannot attract talent now that her looks have faded slightly. It’s just that she now attracts the wrong kind of man. No longer can she entice young pups, in the throes of spontaneous youth, into her clutches. These days she is resigned to attracting the older gentleman who has seen better days. The brightest stars are beginning to look elsewhere and have had their heads turned by sexy Spanish senoritas such as Barcelona and Real. Others have fallen for fraulein Bayern Munich.
United has had competition on the home front also. Lest we forget, United has an ugly sister City who isn’t so ugly anymore. And then of course we have Chelsea and Arsenal. They both live in London which has its own attractions. One of the biggest, vibrant metropolises in the world will always have pulling power. United lives in Manchester. It just doesn’t have the sophistication of a capital city.
But it’s the way in which United has courted her would-be suitors that is more disappointing. To say that her behaviour has been a little desperate is putting it mildly. This summer she’s been linked to more men than those “ladies of the night” who reside in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. It’s all rather unseemly and depressing. It’s sad to see such a beauty fall from grace in such a manner. She’s flung herself at the feet of that latino lathario Arturo Vidal, Germany’s Mats Hummels and the welsh wizard Gareth Bale among others. They have all steadfastly rejected her advances. But it’s her pursuit of Senoirs Ramos and Pedro that is most embarrassing. Where is your dignity United? You were once the buxom beauty that every man wanted to be with. But now, you are flinging yourself at anyone who dares to look in your direction. Rumour has it, you even had a friend Ed fly to Barcelona to meet Senior Pedro in order to finalise a rendez-vous. Have some class United! This type of behaviour is far beneath you. In bygone days, such things would never happen. The boys came in search of you, not the other way round.
You shouldn’t belittle yourself in this way United. You are bigger than this. Don’t get too down about how your advances were repelled. This younger generation are totally selfish and money hungry. They have no idea how to treat a lady. There only out for one thing. They won’t woo you with regaling stories of their undying love for you. They won’t bring you breakfast in bed in the morning. They won’t call. They won’t even text. Senior Ramos was just using you to make his girlfriend Real jealous. He felt that Real was taking him for granted so he used you to teach her a lesson. You were caught in the crossfire. It’s sad really. Now they have put their differences aside and are back in love. Senior Pedro was scared away by some of United ex-beaus. Angel and Victor to name but two. That father-figure Louis is a bully they said. He is demanding and inflexible and his mood swings are terrifying they said. Senior Pedro took heed and has now hooked up with Miss Chelsea in London. Apparently, the fact that Miss Chelsea lives in London was a deciding factor.
So, what now for United? Well, who knows? The truth is her best days are probably behind her. She will continue to captivate and attract. Outwardly she will exude a pretence of infectious exuberance; desperately hanging on to the remnants of her youth. But really, who are you trying to kid United? Father Time catches up on us all and waits for no man or woman. Not even the most beautiful.
By Padraic Ward